Saturday, July 26, 2008

The charter school alternative: how much of an alternative, II

Today's New York Times EducationLife reports on particular trend in charter school education: the environmentally-themed charter:

The environmental theme is particularly popular among charters: it lends itself to the kind of interdisciplinary, project-based approaches to learning that they employ...

Profiling the 11-year-old Common Ground, a charter school in New Haven, CT, the Times describes a class called "Egg and Seed":

...a class combining biology, ecology and literature that reflects the educational philosophy called active, authentic learning. To make learning real and relevant, students aren’t just told how food is produced; they actually slaughter chickens for the lunch table.

Then there's the college prep curriculum, which:

...emphasizes the environmental costs of big cars and big houses, and how cities like New Haven can be sustainable communities. 

For example:

In “Four Corners,” team-taught by a social studies teacher and an English teacher, students choose a neighborhood and document its stories, writing up what they learn online.

Interdisciplinary learning extends into English, foreign language, mathematics, social studies and science, where "environmental topics are often used within those classes to convey a lesson."

How many more years, or decades, must pass before the Powers that Be in education and the media stop treating interdisciplinary, active, hands-on, project-based, real-world, "authentic" learning as novel?

Given how widespread these practices are already, among charters and non-charters alike, what would be truly revolutionary would be an environmentally-themed school that gives students a solid, in-depth training in basic biology, ecology, and climatology--one course, one topic, and one rigorous problem set at a time.

Wouldn't it be nice if the abstract, linear, detail-focused, one-thing-at-a-time, "left-brained" student had somewhere to turn for a solid environmental education...

not to mention an education in general?

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